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Steeler ramp up the run

| Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012, 8:18 p.m.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has given quarterback Ben Roethlisberger freedom in his offense, similar to what his predecessor, Bruce Arians, did. (File photo)

Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley has been known for his ability to adapt to personnel through the years.

In Arizona, he had Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald, so the Cardinals threw the ball. In Kansas City, the Chiefs were more equipped to run with Jamaal Charles, so that's what they did.

It's taken about a month, but Haley is finally nailing down who can do what the best for the Steelers, and he's putting it into effect — especially in the run game.

“The runs that he is giving us now is what we do best instead of just calling runs that he's been calling with other teams in the past,” running back Isaac Redman said. “Right now it feels like he is calling the plays to our strengths and what we have blocked up well in the past and what we have run well in the past.”

The Steelers were running the ball at an all-time low three weeks into the season. They never broke 75 yards in a game or 2.9 yards per carry heading into their Week 4 bye.

Since then (excluding the Tennessee game), the Steelers have rushed for 123, 167 and 140 yards in three wins.

“You start to figure out what the identity of your team is, start to figure out what they're really good at, and you start creating more ways to get those plays into the offense and into the game plans,” tackle Max Starks said. “I think he's done a great job of adjusting to that.”

The biggest adjustment from Haley has been in preparation.

He has pared down the number of running plays from earlier in the year, and it has resulted in the Steelers' two best running performances the past two weeks.

“I have always been a believer in less is more — you get good at what you do,” Haley said. “That's why I wasn't in a major panic about the run game. I am confident the more we know what they can do, and the more we let them do what they do well, that we will be OK.”

Redman estimated the number of run plays has been whittled to about eight. That doesn't take into account plays run out of formations that appear to be different but aren't. Either way, less has indeed proven to be more.

“It caters to our style and what the offensive line likes,” running back Jonathan Dwyer said. “(Haley) is getting a lot more comfortable, and things are progressing well.”

Haley said he still is knocking the rust off his play-calling skills. The last time he called plays was 2008 with the Cardinals.

“I haven't been doing it for a few years really as the offensive coordinator and worrying about just one job,” Haley said. “I think everybody is growing together and getting more and more comfortable, and I think it shows. I've said — and it hasn't been just hot air — we have made progress each and every week … but the bottom line is that we have to continue to get better.”

Mark Kaboly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at mkaboly@tribweb.com

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